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Refugee Policy Changes So Far Have Affected Resettlement Numbers In Texas

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News
The 2016 Austin Refugee Day Festival at Givens Park in Austin.

President Trump has cut refugee admissions for fiscal year 2018 by more than half to 45,000 people. This policy shift is already being felt across the country, including Texas.

“We have seen a trending downward of client figures, client caseloads across the board, as have pretty much every related organization across the country,” said Refugee Services of Texas CEO Aaron Rippenkroeger.

In the first three months of fiscal year 2018 – which started on Oct. 1 – only 400 refugees have been resettled in Texas. That’s significantly down from last fiscal year, when roughly 4,700 refugees moved to the state.

The U.S. State Department recently decided to consolidate resettlement offices that placed fewer than 100 refugees. Rippenkroeger says Refugee Services of Texas hasn’t been affected by that decision, but another court decision is raising more questions.

A federal judge partially lifted the Trump administration’s temporary ban on refugees, which included suspending a program that reunited family members with refugees already in the country. Rippenkroeger says clients have been asking whether they’ll be able to reunite with family members.

"These are individuals who've been through multiple years of vetting, processing, documentation, background checks, and to be almost through that process and to be put on hold is really heartbreaking," he said.

Despite the drop in refugee resettlement in Texas, Rippenkroeger says his organization has received more donations and volunteer requests than ever before in its history. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Becky Fogel is the newscast host and producer for “Texas Standard.” She came to the show from Science Friday in New York where she produced segments on zombie microbiomes and sneaker technology. She got her start in radio at KWBU-FM in Waco and she’s happy to be back in the great state of Texas.